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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW E36 3 Series Parking Brake Adjustment
Jared Fenton
Wayne R. Dempsey

Difficulty Level: 2
Difficulty scale: Adding air to your tires is level one
Rebuilding a BMW Motor is level ten

     I don’t know if this happened to you or not, but did you ever park your car on a hill, only to slowly see it start rolling away after you come out of the store? Granted, this is a worst-case scenario, and how many people don’t put the car in gear while parked? Regardless, the parking brakes eventually wear down over time, causing them to become ineffective in holding the car when parked. In this tech article, I will go over the relatively easy steps involved in adjusting the parking brakes on the BMW E36 3 Series models from 1992-99.

     Parking brakes work essentially like a drum style brake. There are two shoes mounted on the inside of the brake rotor. When you pull up on the handbrake, it drives the shoes outward, causing them to grip the inside of the brake rotor. Over time, friction wears the shoes down, causing them to not grip the inside of the rotor. The solution is to re-adjust the shoes so that they again come into contact with the rotor.

     Here’s how it is done. Start off by chocking the front wheels. This will keep the car from rolling when you jack up the rear wheels. Now remove one lug bolt from each rear wheel. We only need to remove one. Now begin to raise the rear end. For those of you not familiar with jacking up the rear end, I highly recommend you check out Wayne’s article on jacking up your BMW.

http://www.pelicanparts.com/bmw/techarticles/E36-Jacking_Up/E36-Jacking_Up.htm

     Be sure to jack the car up on a structural member. Otherwise, you risk damaging the chassis. I have seen jacks go through floorboards on cars before. Also be sure to support the car on jack stands. NEVER rely on a jack to keep the car up in the air.

     Once jacked up, put the car in neutral, release the handbrake and pump the brakes a few times to seat the pads. Remove the rubber boot around the handbrake. You will now see two nuts in front of the lever. These nuts are used to adjust the parking brake. Loosen these nuts until the cables are completely slack.

     Now go to the rear wheels. Put the car in neutral and make sure the handbrake is released. Now rotate the wheel by hand until the lug bolt hole lines up with the parking brake adjuster. This will be located about 65 degrees off centerline. If you are looking at the wheel, imagine that the very top is 0 degrees, now go right until you reach 65 degrees (about 1/8 rotation around the wheel) Once you have found the adjuster, use a screwdriver to reach in and turn the adjuster until the wheel no longer turns. Once the wheel stops turning, back the adjuster off slightly.

     Now go back inside the car and set the parking brake a few times to seat the cables, and then release the parking brake. Now slowly pull the handbrake until it clicks four times. This is the position we need to have the brake at in order to adjust it. Tighten the adjusting nuts evenly on both sides until you are just able to turn the rear wheels with slight resistance.

     Re-install the rubber boot over the parking brake handle and lower the car. Once on the ground, re-install the lug bolts in the rear.

     Well, there you have it - it's really not too difficult at all.  If you would like to see more technical articles like this one, please continue to support Pelican Parts with all your parts needs.  If you like what you see here, then please visit our online BMW catalog and help support the collection and creating of new and informative technical articles like this one.  Your continued support directly affects the expansion and existence of this site and technical articles like this one.  As always, if you have any questions or comments about this helpful article, please drop us a line.

Comments and Suggestions:
Vinnie Comments: Hi there
I wonder if you can help. I have put new brake shoes in on my bmw e36 and set the the hand brake to four clicks but when I still park on a slight down hill the handbrake still does not hold. What can the problem be?
March 24, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Try jacking up the rear wheels and see if you can spin them with the parking brake on. Your cable may be binding and not letting it move enough to apply the parking brake shoes. - Kerry at Pelican Parts  

Got more questions?  Join us in our BMW Technical Forum Message Board, and ask a question to one of our many automotive experts.
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